The UT Dallas student chapter of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS) recently learned it was one of only two groups to earn a top student chapter award from the national INFORMS organization at its 2017 meeting in Houston.
The UT Dallas chapter earned summa cum laude recognition, the highest level possible, based on its outstanding participation and performance for 2016. The University of South Florida was the other university to receive that designation at the national meeting in November.
The award news arrived soon after the Jindal-based chapter hosted its third annual Operations Management Case Competition that drew 40 competing teams from across Texas and ended with three JSOM teams sweeping first, second and third place. This kind of commitment — to both doing and to achieving — is what sets the chapter apart and makes it worthy of the national honor, faculty adviser Dr. Monica Brussolo said.
The group’s other faculty adviser, Dr. Kathryn Stecke, noted that in congratulating the chapter for earning a cum laude chapter award in 2016, she expressed the thought that the students could do better next year. “They did…and won!” she said.
“This chapter is so successful because the students are very committed, formal and professional,” Brussolo said. “They treat the organization like a little business and develop strong managerial and leadership skills along the way.”
Project management and organizational skills were critical for the success of the case competition that took place in the Jindal School Nov. 17. Planning began in June, with much of the early work focused on outreach to companies to secure judges and sponsorships.
“Without corporate support and involvement, we can’t move forward; so we dedicate a lot of time to this,” said chapter president and MS in Supply Chain Management student Adarsh Shetty, who spearheaded the corporate relations activities.
His efforts resulted in six companies participating as judges and in a networking lunch. The companies were American Airlines, Atos, Coriant, Ericson+Bergen, EY and PepsiCo.
Oscar Yactayo, co-founder of the global solutions consulting firm Ericson+Bergen and a 2008 JSOM BS in business administration alumnus, developed the case used in the competition. The case focused on a logistics and transportation problem and required students to find the best solutions optimizing both cost and time.
The case had a diverse set of variables that added to its complexity “and challenged teams to think critically and outside of the box to fulfill real industry expectations,” Yactayo said.
Yactayo’s case was sent to 80 teams that registered for the competition. Approximately 40 teams from seven universities — including UT Austin, SMU and TCU — submitted solutions. Judges narrowed the field to 12 finalist teams who each made a five-minute presentation to the panel and answered questions about their proposals.
Competing alongside the seven UT Dallas teams in the top 12 were four teams from UT Arlington and one from Texas A&M University.
Yactayo credited quality of work, engagement as a team, and “ability to adjust data from an unknown industry to produce logical output” as the key factors that impressed him from the winning team.
In addition to analytical skills, Brussolo also attributed the success of the UT Dallas teams to their “soft” skills, combining their technical acumen with a confident, personable and professional presentation style that set them apart from the other competitors.
The top three teams received monetary awards, but Mabroor Wassey, a dual full-time MBA and MS in Supply Chain Management student who was a member of the first-place team, saw benefits far beyond the prize money.
“The networking opportunity with industry professionals at this event went beyond typical networking events,” Wassey said. “We were able to showcase our skills and capabilities as opposed to just talking about them. This has definitely increased our hunger to participate in more case competitions.”
Wassey and his teammates will have this opportunity as they go on to represent UT Dallas in the Second Annual Invitational MBA/MS Supply Chain Competition in February, hosted by TCU.
As helpful as competitions are for students, Yactayo sees these events as mutually beneficial for students and companies.
“We are able to assess UTD’s talent pool for hiring purposes and gain exponential company exposure and branding towards future candidates,” Yactayo said.
On the heels of a successful event and its national award, INFORMS already is in planning mode for its next big event, a data analytics case competition in late spring.
“We know that it is much more than classroom education that makes you competitive in the marketplace,” Shetty said. “We must step out of our comfort zones to learn what’s important from industry professionals, and these competitions help set you apart from the rest of the crowd.”
— Caryn Berardi
First Place: Team Trio
• Vasudev Madasu
• Dilip Seripalli
• Mabroor Wassey
Second Place: Team Pathfinders
• Mehul Gangwal
• Kshitija Kulkarni
• Sahil Ratra
Third Place: Team MITW
• Wanyu Chen
• Eric Lin
• Yu-Chen Wu